Scammers Call Restaurants At Peak Hours, Demanding They Pay Power Bill Now Or Lose Service

A good con artist knows that distraction and an added sense of urgency can help to separate a mark from his money. If you want to hustle a cashier into believing that he gave you the wrong change, it helps to have a line of impatient customers behind you. And if you want a restaurant to pay an electric bill they don’t actually owe, there’s no better time to threaten them with losing service than the lunch rush.

Or at least that seems to be the idea behind a scam attempt being run on eateries in Centre County, PA.

Police in the area are warning local restaurants about con artists calling restaurants during their busiest times and pretending to be calling from West Penn Power.

The caller will tell the restaurant that their electric bill is overdue and it needs to be paid now or they’ll be shut off within the hour.

The hope, presumably, is that the restaurant will turn over payment information on the spot in order to get the problem resolved and get back to serving customers. Give the victim time to think about the call or to look at their accounts and the charade fails.

And the scammers aren’t just calling blindly; one manager says the caller rattled off the exact amount that his restaurant had paid West Penn a month earlier.

Luckily, this manager smelled something odd when the caller couldn’t cite his account number.

“So I said let me check on this and I pulled our bills,” he tells WJAC-TV. “I went to the office and pulled out bills and called the 1-800 number on the bill and checked when our balance was paid and there was no outstanding balance.”

Police say they have received several reports from local restaurants about this scam and are advising businesses to be mindful when they pick up the phone.

“You have to ask more questions because they red flags are there,” Moore said.

In general, you should not provide payment information to anyone who contacts you. Even if they have accurate information about your account, that information could be stolen. You should always get a call back number — and verify with your bills and any other available info that the number actually belongs to the company — then call back and settle the bill safely.